DENVER – On June 4, the first Saturday of Pride Month, History Colorado’s first LGBTQ+ themed exhibit “Rainbows and Revolutions” will open to the public.
The exhibit explores the struggles and successes of LBGTQ+ Coloradans and uses personal stories and historical artifacts to take visitors through LGBTQ+ history from the 1950s to the present.
“Our history goes back further, but the last 50 years is when we became really visible, especially since the Stonewall Uprising, which was June 28, 1969,” said Aaron Marcus, Gill Foundation associate curator of LGBTQ History at History Colorado.
Marcus has spent the last three years collecting donations for the exhibit.
“In 1975, a woman in Boulder issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples because she did not see why she couldn't within the actual legal verbiage. It didn't say anything that indicated she couldn't, so she did. It actually made national news. She was able to issue six before the attorney general at the time in 1975 shut it down,” Marcus said while standing in front of the exhibit that displays the six marriage licenses. “Each artifact you're going to see is attached to a real person and a real story."
Marcus says the exhibit will highlight discriminatory laws like Amendment 2, legislation passed by Colorado voters that prevented municipalities from enacting anti-discrimination laws that protected LGBTQ+ Coloradans.
“In the exhibits, I have a lot of artifacts that I brought in for that, and it's very important. Amendment 2, because it laid the foundation for a lot of Supreme Court decisions. Even marriage equality refers back to Amendment 2,” Marcus said. “I was fired from a job when they found out I was gay in the 90s, in 1995. So that was very personal to me.”
Marcus says the exhibit will also explore secret societies, community leaders, political milestones, art and the continued fight for equality.
“It's important to have an exhibit like this for many reasons. But a couple of the reasons are — a lot of people in the LGBTQ community, they don't know their history. So I really hope if you're a part of this community, you'll see yourself in this exhibit. And then if you're an ally, I hope that they see the people behind the community,” Marcus said. “If somebody doesn't see themselves in this exhibit, I hope that they contact us and give us their story and oral history, or donate artifacts so that going forward, this really will be a much more inclusive archive.”
Marcus says they will continue collecting donations for the archives.
Marcus’s intern, Soleil Hanberry-Lizzi, helped catalog many of the exhibit’s items.
“This project has been something that I really love, just because my own parents are lesbians," Hanberry-Lizzi said. "I'm trans myself, and it feels like sort of a celebration of everything that we are."
Hanberry-Lizzi also donated to the exhibit.
“I started my transition in 2021, and I had a lot of pill bottles rolling around. I was like, "Well, I mean, Aaron's got nothing on medical transition yet. So here are a couple of my pill bottles,"” Hanberry-Lizzi said.
Hanberry-Lizzi also contributed a Pride flag.
“History is such a, an effective tool for seeing yourself… the thing that led me to come out was the story of a historical trans man named Emilio Robles. Just seeing that in 1910s Mexico, he was able to come out, be respected as his own gender identity, and live a long and happy life, it gave me the courage to come out,” Hanberry-Lizzi said. “I'm getting a little teary eyed, but it means a lot to me that especially with anti-trans bills aimed at children who are trying to figure themselves out and come out around the country, that they are being given kind-of a safe haven and an ability to see queerness as it existed with resilience for hundreds of years and will continue to do so.”
To learn more about the exhibit, click here.